Suffering’s Greater Purpose

Life Notes—May 27, 2010 

“…suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”  Romans 5:3b-5 

This passage comes from the letter of the Apostle Paul to the Romans, encouraging them in their young Christian faith.  I suspect, in Paul’s day, hope was much more critical than it is today.  Today, particularly in America, it is easy to find any number of Christian churches and fellowships where a person can learn and grow and be nurtured in the faith.  Then, those opportunities were few and far between, usually occurring in secret to avoid persecution. 

I remember some years back hearing the saying, “Suffering builds character.”  Some years after that I heard a different twist on that statement, “Suffering doesn’t build character, it reveals character.”  I would not want to count the number of times the uglier parts of my character have surfaced when things were not going the way I had hoped.  Anger, impatience, frustration, even the occasional word-I-would-not-want-my-grandmother-to-hear—all are parts of my character I normally try to keep under wraps.  While I am not certain whether those times build my character, they certainly reveal parts I prefer not to show. 

Paul tries to encourage the Roman Christians through their suffering by helping them understand that suffering builds endurance.  Endurance is valuable because it builds character.  As character grows, we find hope in God.  And our hope will not be in vain because God’s love has been poured into us through the Holy Spirit.  So our suffering begins a chain of events that will ultimately end positively.  Suffering leads to peace, when our hope is in God. 

Even though Christian worship is not the rare or dangerous experience it was 2000 years ago, the lesson is just as timely today.  We all suffer.  It is part of our human condition.  Try as we might to avoid it, no one is completely successful, although some always seem to suffer less than others.  Paul assures us there is a greater purpose for our suffering than just misery.  Whether we are aware of it or not, through our suffering we are building character and hope.  And through our character and hope we are manifesting the love of God, through the Holy Spirit dwelling within. 

Tom’s sermon title this week is “Hope,” based on the scripture Romans 5:1-5.  Life worship begins at 10:45 in Brady hall.  Traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00 in the sanctuary.  Contemporary worship at the west campus begins at 9:30. 

Come home to worship this Sunday.  Indulge in a little character-building with us!

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

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